The new research used a commonly studied plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, to study how plants adapt to temperature variations. In one experiment two generations were exposed to mildly hot temperatures. The next generation was exposed to normal temperatures, and then for the final generation the temperature was again elevated. These plants significantly outperformed plants whose ancestors had been exposed to colder temperatures.
In other words, these plants had adapted to the warmer temperatures, and the adaptation had persisted through a generate exposed to normal temperatures. This example of rapid adaptation defies the evolutionary expectation of lucky changes undergoing natural selection. As one science writer put it:
Because the chance of accumulating mutations within just two generations that led the heat-conditioned plants to thrive in hotter conditions was essentially nil, the authors conclude that inherited epigenetic factors affecting flower production and early-stage seed survival in those plants had to be at play.
Of course this is a falsification of an evolutionary prediction, but the research also has important implications for agriculture. As the researchers explain:
the result has significant and practical implications for understanding variation in agronomic productivity
Whereas Jonathan Weiner once asked, “How can you be a creationist farmer any more?,” the operative question now seems to be, “How can you be a evolutionist farmer any more?”